Emotions in China

Youth between Fear and Nostalgia
11:00 am – 12:45 pm
Room 6

  • Organised and Chaired by Sascha Klotzbücher
  • Sascha Klotzbücher, “Politics of Fear and The Memories of The Cultural Revolution: Why Generations Do not Meet in China”
  • Maria Nolan, “Youth, Home, and Urban Alienation in Contemporary China”
  • Lili Jiang, “The Changing Sense of Belonging of Chinese Master Students in Germany”
  • Lisa Richaud, Discussant

This is the third panel that explores the importance of emotions. All three participants focus on the question how emotions of the youth frame perception and action. This panel tries to explore how young people create emotional settings and how this agency is powerful even when material or political representation is gone: The first presenter explores how fear is critical for the emotional manipulation of the Cultural Revolution and even unfolds in transgenerational settings. The second presentation focus on nostalgia of lost homes, and the last presenter on shared affect of lostness and nostalgia in folk rock music.

Sascha Klotzbücher, “Politics of Fear and The Memories of The Cultural Revolution: Why Generations Do not Meet in China”

This paper is part of a recent published book that develops a framework for the analysis of power, emotion, and psychodynamics. I analyse the power of Maoism not in ideological terms but how ordinary people simplified and distorted it as new access to a new Lebenswelt. This paper argues that Maoist ideology created a stable system of “affect manipulation” to exist, enabling authorities to subtly manipulate individuals to perceive themselves in politically defined states of joy and frustration. It is crucial to understand the process of identification in politically designed, unified, and controlled social roles propagated during the Cultural Revolution. Acting in these social roles, they internalise ideology when coping with politically induced anxiety, and ambivalence by enabling and acting out these new designed positive feelings. For this presentation, I will look in a case study. I use autobiographies written by a former high school student in Wuhan who murdered two members of a rival red guards association in 1966. I discuss the constructed feeling of “hate“ as part of the social role “people’s hero.” The second part of the paper analyses the legacy and transmission of these role concepts into the current society of mainland China in ‘apolitical’ settings like families. Using my interviews with the former sent-down youth and their children in Wuhan, I will analyse how these memories and feelings of this identification are transferred and updated into contemporary Chinese families as a form of construction of daily family life and conversations where intergenerational discourse can only fail.

Maria Nolan, “Youth, Home, and Urban Alienation in Contemporary China

Over the past 40 years, as Chinese cities have undergone sweeping changes, the meaning of ‘home’ in urban China has simultaneously evolved. In Beijing, for example, older neighbourhoods have been razed through renovations starting in the early 1990s and continuing today, while out of the rubble emerge new commercial housing units and private compounds. Studies have shown that those relocated to new compounds may feel both a heightened sense of privacy and a greatly diminished sense of attachment to their surroundings (Cockain, 2012; Zhang, 2008). Today’s urban youth, however, were born into such increasingly privatised environments. Many have resided for most—or all —of their lives in modern apartment compounds in newer localities as cityscapes have been continually recreated. This paper explores—ethnographically—the extent to which China’s urban youth, accustomed to privatised home lifestyles, experience feelings of detachment from their urban environs, and illustrates how such feelings may be articulated. Alongside privatisation, urban redevelopment has led to what de Kloet and Fung (2017: 26) describe as youths’ ‘constant deterritorialisation’, while digital media, in providing diverse communication and entertainment options, are driving a reduction in engagement with spaces outside the home. If youth have never experienced a strong sense of relatedness with their neighbourhood or neighbours, is it something they desire? This paper analyses youths’ perceptions and experiences of city life in this context, and, with reference to Lefebvre’s writings on urban alienation, shows how they inform practices of everyday life both at home and in wider urban environments.

Lili Jiang, “The Changing Sense of Belonging of Chinese Master Students in Germany”

This paper explores the changing sense of belonging of a group of master students from mainland China during their stay in Germany. The main purpose is to understand how the students perceive their emotional attachment to China as home and how the perception gradually changed after their experiences in Germany, where they have learnt and developed different strategies to negotiate their sense of belonging. The study applies a combination of longitudinal method and the method of the biographical narrative interview which tracks 25 Chinese students’ lived experiences from their first semester until after they graduate from Germany, in order to capture their development. The paper provides longitudinal evidence to reveal the complex and multi-layered nature of these young students’ changing sense of home and also supports that students’ transcultural experiences in Germany may help them “unlearn” a normalized emotional attachment toward China which was partially imbued by the Patriotic Education Campaign from the 1990s and assist them to go beyond their state-bound national loyalty to postulate a potential transcultural position in today’s world.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room 6
Youth between Fear and Nostalgia